Catalyzing Ocean Finance

Recently, Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Program combined their talents and experience to address ocean solutions on the scale required to make a difference. The findings of their work have been published into a two-volumne journal entitled, "Catalyzing Ocean Finance."

We are forced to consider the ocean’s future by the ever-expanding evidence of human intervention into the global system whether by emissions, pollution of many sorts, over-fishing, or irresponsible coastal development. As the problems continue to grow and become evermore apparent, so does our frustration with the immensity of the situation, the scale, the urgent need for action coupled to the failure of politicians to recognize or grapple with the issues.  We are overwhelmed.

When the situation is complicated, it is likely the solution will be complicated, but I would like to attempt in coming editions of World Ocean Radio to present some of the findings and ideas put forward by organizations, perhaps not so publicly known, engaged in the development of policies and structures to affect the necessary change.

I have often referenced the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Program when discussing ocean issues. The GEF is a quasi-public agency, funded mostly by independent government contributions, that has invested millions of dollars worldwide in new policy models tested on the ground and in watersheds, coastal areas, and the deep ocean. While still a bureaucracy, it may well be the most effective environmental organization on earth. The UNDP mission is “to partner with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, UNDP offers global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations." These are lofty goals focused on the eradication of poverty, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, the environment and energy for sustainable development, and human rights.

As the ocean pertains to these goals on every level in every place, its focus there is logical and useful. 

Recently, these two organizations combined their talents and experience to address ocean solutions on the scale required to make a difference. As we always tend to measure value in dollars, they predicated their recommendations on the following analysis:  findings of their work, which have been published in a two-volume journal entitled "Catalyzing Ocean Finance."

Marine and coastal resources directly provide at least $3 trillion annually in economic goods and services plus an estimated $20.9 trillion per year in non-market ecosystem services. Unfortunately, coasts and oceans are exposed to increasing threats such as pollution, overfishing, introduced species, habitat and species loss, and poorly planned and managed coastal infrastructure development. The cumulative economic impact of poor ocean management practices is at least $200 billion dollars per year. In the absence of pro-active mitigation measures, climate change will increase the cost of damage to the ocean by an additional $322 billion per year by 2050. The ocean is estimated to have absorbed 25-30% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. While this has served to mitigate atmospheric warming to a sizeable extent, it has increased the acidity of the ocean by 30%, with significant threats to calcium carbonate fixing organisms that serve as the foundation for many ocean food chains upon which hundreds of millions depend for food protein and livelihoods. Climate change is already affecting surface ocean temperatures, driving fish stocks to migrate to more favorable waters and reducing upwelling of vital nutrients to key fisheries areas, further threatening fisheries yields. In addition, sea level rise, due to the thermal expansion of seawater, glacial melt and groundwater extraction, endangers millions living in the coastal zone and island states, mostly in the world’s least developed countries.

The findings of their work have been now published, entitled Catalyzing Ocean Finance, two volumes of information, substantiated by economic and social studies, and suggested solutions, substantiated by extant successful models that hold real promise for change. The publications look at case studies that document how reformed ocean governance at local, provincial, national, regional or global scales can catalyze sufficient financial flows to mitigate pollution and degradation, preserve marine and coastal resources, and sustain communities through the food, energy, work, economic viability, and social advancement demanded by the world’s burgeoning population. What are their recommendations?